GATESVILLE – Rickey Phillips doesn’t like to scold his players. Sometimes, though, he has no choice.
Early in the first set of Gatesville’s second of three games at its annual home tournament, the Lady Hornets head coach called a timeout to loudly voice his displeasure. Gatesville responded. The Hornets went on a 19-5 run en route to a straight-set victory against Austin Travis.
“Coaching is sometimes like parenting. Sometimes you spank your kid’s butt, and sometimes in coaching you have to raise your voice a little,” Phillips said. “It’s not a personal thing. Sometimes you have to find the temperature of your team, and they responded to it.”
The Hornets won all three of their games Thursday, beating McGregor, Travis and Waco University, advancing into the tournament’s semifinals against Dublin on Saturday at 4 p.m.
With only two returning starters from last year’s team that reached the Class 3A regional quarterfinal, Gatesville is quickly trying to create cohesion with multiple new faces. Despite being a work in progress, junior Mikayla Heckmann saw plenty of positives following her team’s wins.
“I felt like we did really well,” Heckmann said. “We played together. We can still work on some stuff, but as a team, we did really well.”
Gatesville opened with a 25-15, 25-18 win against McGregor before beating Travis 25-16, 25-11 and bouncing back from a first-set loss to defeat University 22-25, 25-20, 25-10. In each match, the Lady Hornets produced significant runs to climb out of holes and survive sticky situations.
“When you are behind, you always want to see your team scratch, claw and fight to get back in the game,” Phillips said. “I know what they can do, and that is nice to see.”
Should Gatesville defeat Dublin in the semifinals, it would advance to the finals, where it would face the winner between Belton and China Spring, which is playing Saturday at 3 p.m. Belton emerged from the first day unscathed by beating Jarrell 25-16, 25-22 and Round Rock Christian 29-30, 25-12, 25-15. After seeing his team rally against Travis following his outburst, Phillips feels confident his team is capable of winning the tournament championship as long as it plays up to its potential.
“I told them that we need to play intense,” he said. “We don’t practice being careful, let’s don’t play that way.”